SAN FRANCISCO -– Even if Tim Lincecum hadn’t thrown a no-hitter last year at San Diego, it would’ve been an easy call for Giants manager Bruce Bochy to pull him after five innings Wednesday afternoon.
Lincecum had thrown a concentrated and challenging 96 pitches. There was no way he would see through a complete game. And even while shutting down the Chicago Cubs, his fastballs were taking more unintended turns than a Plinko token.
So Lincecum was lifted, the Cubs gathered their first hit against Jeremy Affeldt with one out in the seventh inning, and the club with baseball’s best record had to be content with merely another series victory.
Pablo Sandoval extended his RBI streak to eight games, the longest by a Giant in 11 years, and Hector Sanchez tacked on a two-run double as the Giants beat the Cubs 5-0 to take two of three and finish a 5-1 homestand.
The Giants held the Cubs scoreless over the final 20 innings in the series.
Starting pitching report
Lincecum was coming off an effectively wild start in which he beat the Minnesota Twins despite issuing six walks in six innings. And no, his fastball command didn’t suddenly show up along with Hunter Pence’s scooter.
Lincecum needed a balance pole again as he walked four, struck out five and managed to make the Cubs funnel all their hard contact at defenders.
It took 32 pitches and some clover to escape a scoreless first inning that included two walks and a stolen base. Sandoval made a diving stop of Starlin Castro’s grounder down the line, got to his feet quickly and threw to first for the out. Nate Schierholtz lined out to end the inning.
Lincecum was at 52 pitches through two innings and emptied his quiver again in the fourth, when he hit Schierholtz with a pitch and then shortstop Brandon Crawford fumbled a grounder for an error. Lincecum escaped by striking out Chris Coghlan and then got John Baker to ground out.
Lincecum issued his fourth walk of the game in the fifth but got Junior Lake to roll into a double play to end the inning. With his spot due up third in the fifth, a scoreless game, and 96 concentrated pitches on his ledger, Lincecum departed for a pinch hitter. It might have been a tougher call for Bochy had Lincecum not already thrown a no-hitter (on 148 pitches) last July at San Diego.
Lincecum became just the second Giants pitcher in the club’s history to be pulled after five innings with a no-hitter intact. The other was none other than Mike Krukow, who was making his first start off the DL in May of 1983 when he departed after six no-hit innings at Cincinnati.
Chicagoland native and Northwestern University product George Kontos (1-0) retired all four Cubs he faced, striking out two, to earn his victory in over a year. But the combined no-hit bid died with Jeremy Affeldt.
Affeldt issued a walk and John Baker hit a clean single through the right side. Jean Machi entered and protected the two-run lead, getting a pair of ground outs to strand both of Affeldt’s runners.
Machi lowered his ERA to 0.35 and extended his streak to 20.1 scoreless innings –- the longest run by a Giants reliever since Sergio Romo threw 21.2 scoreless in 2011.
At the plate
Fun fact: Lincecum’s 148-pitch no-hitter in San Diego last year marked the highest pitch count in a major league game since … his opponent on Wednesday, Edwin Jackson, threw 149 in his no-hitter for the White Sox three years earlier.
Jackson wouldn’t take a no-hit bid very deep this time, as Crawford singled in the second inning. But the Giants couldn’t push across a run until the sixth.
Angel Pagan doubled, Hunter Pence walked and Buster Posey’s deep fly out put runners at the corners. Sandoval followed with a two-strike single to center that scored Pagan, and extended the Panda’s streak to eight games with an RBI. It’s the longest by a Giant in 11 years (J.T. Snow in 2003) and two games away from matching the San Francisco-era record of 10 held by Matt Williams and Jeff Kent.
Tyler Colvin stung his former team with an RBI double to cap the two-run rally.
The Giants added on with a two-out rally in the seventh. Posey hit a line drive to left field that ticked off the glove of Justin Ruggiano. It initially was ruled an RBI single, but later changed to an error. Either way, the Cubs regretted extending the inning.
They became the latest team to regret issuing an intentional walk in front of Hector Sanchez, too. The backup catcher collected his third hit of the season following a free pass, mashing double to the wall in left-center that scored Posey and Sandoval.
Sanchez hustled to third base when Castro threw a dying quail of a relay throw to the plate that would make 50 Cent shudder. The throw to third beat Sanchez, but he slithered around the tag well enough to keep replays from conclusively overturning the safe call.
If Sandoval doesn’t make that diving stop in the first inning, it’s a totally different game.
The Giants announced 41,186 paid. To see the Cubs at AT&T Park again, you’ll just have to wait till next year.
The Giants take off for a seven-game road trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis, beginning on Thursday when they start a four-game series at Busch Stadium. Ryan Vogelsong (3-2, 3.20 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia (1-0, 4.26). First pitch is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Madison Bumgarner (6-3, 3.15) vs. his lookalike, right-hander Adam Wainwright (8-2, 1.67), on Friday; Matt Cain (1-3, 3.66) vs. right-hander Michael Wacha (3-3, 2.67) on Saturday; and Tim Hudson (5-2, 1.92) vs. right-hander Lance Lynn (6-2, 3.13) on Sunday.